Sunday, May 6, 2012

How to Paint High Elf Spearmen


Please find some pictures and a step-by-step guide below for High Elf Spearmen. As usual there is no assumption on my part that I am a "good"painter! This is just (roughly) what I did to get the effect below, which I reckon is "Tabletop Quality".
Note: The process described below is not exact, I recommend painting up a test model first. Also, this guide uses the "Old" Games Workshop paints. Please see this Games Workshop conversion chart for the approximate equivalents in the new range.

Before battle, marshal your forces...
  • Chaos Black undercoat (spray) 
  • Chaos Black
  • Skull White
  • Bleached Bone
  • Codex Grey
  • Boltgun Metal
  • Chainmail
  • Mithril Silver
  • Calthan Brown
  • Snakebite Leather
  • Liche Purple
  • Warlock Purple
  • Tallarn Flesh
  • Dwarf Flesh
  • Elf Flesh
  • Dark Angels Green
  • Snot Green
  • Dwarf Bronze
  • Shining Gold
  • Devlan Mud
  • Ogryn Flesh
  • Badab Black
  • Gryphonne Sepia
(I use GW only because they are an easy range for me to get hold of. There are lots of good hobbying paint ranges out there.)

Step 1: Preparation.

Assemble models.
Remove flash/ mould lines. Use a craft knife or file away (carefully!) With these models, pay careful attention to mould lines on top of their boots and also down the side of their scale armour hauberks, helmets and spears.

The "Shield Factory"!

Tip: You may want to consider NOT attaching shields at this point. I painted mine in "assembly line" fashion and glued them on later. This is fiddly but gives easier access to the body of the model and the reverse of the shield during painting.

Step 2: First basing.

Sand down any flash or raised areas around the edge of the base so it is smooth.
Apply PVA glue to the top of the base, being careful not to get this on the boots of the model.
Sprinkle a few pieces of crushed coral onto the base (you can buy this at any pet shop in the aquatics section)

Immediately dip in modelling sand.

Tip: Rub away any sand/ glue that has dripped over onto the sides of the base now for a smarter appearance later.

OPTIONAL: At this point, I sometimes do some initial work on the base now (overbrush the sand and paint the edges) rather than leave this to the end of the process (See Step 7: Final Basing). I would then leave the static grass until the end. (I just do this because I don't like finishing the models and then still having another hour of drudgery on the bases!)

Step 3: Undercoat.

Spray paint the model(s) using the undercoat of your choice. I use Citadel Chaos Black
Note: A debate exists over whether to use Chaos Black or Skull White. As a beginner I prefer Chaos Black as it hides my mistakes and forms natural shadows all over the model. However for brighter models like High Elves there is much to be said for a white undercoat - not least because it greatly reduces the number of Skull White layers needed later...

Tip: when spray undercoating the model, make sure you get good coverage on the sides of the base too. This makes it easier to paint later.

Step 4: Basecoats.

Codex Grey basecoat on robes (Unit Champion)
Basecoats complete (Unit Champion) and a
layer of Skull White on the arms.
Basecoats complete (Spearman)
Codex Grey: Robes. (This will form an undercoat for the Skull White in step 6.)
Boltgun Metal: Shield bosses.
Chainmail: Armour, helmet, details on musician's instrument, fittings on banner. Note: If youare in a hurry or doing a very large unit, scale armour is easy to drybrush, as this naturally leaves shading in the recesses between the scales.
Mithril Silver: Spearhead, swords etc.
Calthan Brown: Spear haft. (This will be a basecoat for the Bleached Bone.)
Snakebite Leather: Boots
Liche Purple: Edges of hauberk/ icons on breastplates/ unit banner
Tallarn Flesh: Skin
Dark Angels Green: Gems
Dwarf Bronze: Scale hauberk on unit champion, musician's instrument, fittings on unit banner.

Skull White: At this point, I began working on the white shields. It took 3-4 layers per shield.

Tip: If you want, add a bit of variety to the unit by having a few troops with different shields. In my case I did 3 different designs as a test, ultimately keeping the purple shield for the champion...
Test shield designs. (Liche Purple, Skull White and Warlock Purple)
I varied the gem colours too. These are held in place with Blu-Tack at this point.

Step 5: Washes.

Ogryn Flesh: Skin (face, hands)
Devlan Mud: Back of each shield.
Gryphonne Sepia: Musician's instrument
Badab Black: Scale armour, breastplates, helmets, shield boss.

Step 6: Layers.

Shining Gold: Fixtures and fittings on helmets, fittings around gems on shield bosses and unit standard.
Skull White: Robes. (Leave Codex Grey in the folds of the robes to provide some shading.) Eyes.
Chaos Black: Pupils. (Try to add just a tiny dot to the center of the eye) To be honest - I find the eyes the hardest thing to do!
Liche Purple/ Warlock Purple mix (50/50) Edges of hauberk/ icons on breastplates/ unit banner. Layer up with an intermediate mix (30/70) to a pure Warlock Purple

Bleached Bone: Spear hafts, musician's instrument.
Dark Angel Green/ Snot Green mix: Gems. (70/30 mix, layering up to a 30/70 mix along the bottom edge of the gem)

Tip: For gems, a small dot of pure Skull White at the top and/ or bottom of the gem adds a very nice effect and makes the gem stand out.
Gem detail.

Step 7: Drybrushing

Mithril Silver: Breastplates, shoulder plates, raised area of the shield boss

Step 8: Final basing.

Calthan Brown: Overbrush across the base, being careful to avoid the boots/ legs of the model
Snakebite Leather: Drybrush across the base. Paint the base edges. I usually find 2 coats gives a nice smooth finish.
Codex Grey: Drybrush lightly across the base, paint any crushed coral.
Fortress Grey: Drybrush any crushed coral rocks to add a natural highlight.
Paint on PVA glue, and then sprinkle static grass onto the base.

Tip: Think carefully about how "grassy" you want the unit to look. I find that covering everything with grass is overkill, so I leave about 1/3 of the unit with very minimal or no static grass. This is personal preference though! Things to bear in mind include what kind of movement tray you may be using for this unit and how it is painted, as well as what kind of surface you usually play on? (A grassy battlemat? barren wasteland? etc.)


Thanks very much for looking. Please feel free to leave comments and feedback!



  1. You did the same thing I did with my spear elves - used the archer banner!

  2. Haha - yeah, the archer banner is a bit more hard core so it seemed to suit the spearmen better!

  3. Hi there dude, I was just wondering what you were using for your movement trays?

    1. Hi. I have used mainly GW movement trays over the years as I used to have a store near where I live. With these guys though I got hold of a fair few Gale Force 9 movement trays so had a go with those instead. I found them easy to work with, a bit blocky in shape though as they are wood. For magnetizing trays I use essentially the same (cheap) technique, which you can find on the blog if you search for "trays" or "magnetic" or the like. Let me know if you can't find it and I will send you the link. Cheers, Squeek

    2. Thank you very much - I liked the white effect - it looks very High Elf.



  4. so stunning! Thank you for the tutorial!

    1. You're welcome. Glad that you found it useful! I still have a couple of HE units that I painted up a while ago for which I haven't posted a guide, so hopefully I will get to those soon.



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